Top: Valero Energy Corp. gymnasium, The Children's Center
SECC in action: Shelter offers alumna challenges, rewards
By Lynn Gosnell
Special Projects Writer
(Oct. 17, 2007)--On a warm September morning, a group of preschoolers, including three very boisterous boys, head into a light-filled art room for some creative fun. The creations may end up as gifts for others, but before that happens, their artwork will be evaluated by a certified art therapist for clues to the children's mental well-being and neurological development.
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These preschoolers are temporary residents of The Children’s Shelter, a private nonprofit agency that provides 24-hour residential emergency care and assessments for up to 104 children. The shelter [SECC agency code: 415036] accepts children from birth to 14 years. All of the children have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.
"About 70 percent of the children come to us directly from Child Protective Services. The rest come here in the back seat of a police car," said April Hernandez, director of community relations. Hernandez, who earned her B.A. in communication in 2002 from UTSA, began working at the shelter last spring.
"Each child comes to us with a different story," Hernandez said during a tour of the shelter's recently opened spacious West Woodlawn campus. An older facility in downtown San Antonio remains open and each facility has capacity for 52 kids. The average stay for the children is 30-50 days and is often followed by placement with a foster family. The children may eventually be adopted or returned to their families.
While the children are at the shelter, they attend school, go on field trips, receive medical and dental care, and generally live in a safe, ordered and loving environment.
For Hernandez, whose previous job involved working with parents who were very involved with their kids, her new setting has been eye-opening. "Now I'm working with children who don't have that parent who is spending time with their child. I didn't realize there were so many children out there who didn't have that mom or dad or protector they needed."
"This is what our community is suffering with -- children being abused, abandoned, neglected," she said.
"Whenever I give a tour, and they're smiling and waving, that reminds me of why we need to be here," Hernandez added. "If we weren't here, where would these children be?"
The State Employee Charitable Campaign runs Oct. 1 - 19, 2007.
Make plans to attend "UTSA's Got Talent," 9-10:30 a.m., Friday, Oct. 19 in the Business Building Richard Liu Auditorium (2.01.02), 1604 Campus. You won't see these acts on YouTube! Did you know that your boss can dance and sing? Come see UTSA's faculty and staff display their extroverted sides in a fun-filled event. If you are interested in participating or helping with the event, call (210) 458-5136. Your SECC donation is your ticket to this one-of-a-kind event.
Want to donate online to SECC? Learn how to give at the eWay site.